University of Alberta studies the power of profanity

A new University of Alberta study has found a few well-placed curse words can make online customer reviews more reliable. Breanna Karstens-Smith reports.

Much of society frequently buys everything from electronics to cleaning products online and reviews from other customers can come in handy when picking products.

“Consumer reviews are considered to be more trustworthy than, like, a brand advertisement,” University of Alberta School of Business Assistant Professor Katie Lafreniere told Global News.

A new study done by Lafreniere and her colleagues has found a couple of curse words can make those reviews even more meaningful.

“The presence of swear words in a review increased the number of helpful votes that the review received.”

Lafreniere and the team looked at more than 300,000 online product reviews on both Amazon and Yelp.

While “cycles work as expected, layout is OK,” was a descriptive review for a dishwasher, the research found “this dishwasher is damn quiet” was perceived to be more helpful and sold the product better.

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The team found profanity is particularly efficient as a communication tool and made the reviews more reliable.

Robert Tryon is on board. He’s the self-proclaimed head seafood dude of Effing Seafoods in St. Albert.

Starting his career on Vancouver Island, Tryon became known for the oysters he harvested in the Effingham Inlet.

“Typically with oyster names it comes from the geographical area,” Tryon explained.

“So I grew the Effingham oyster which I shortened to the Effing Oyster.”

Tryon says he himself looks at reviews when buying products online, specifically when booking travel.

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He has also learned the value of the feedback in the industry.

“We work with a lot of great restaurants around the city and i see how some of their reviews affect their business,” Tryon said.

The U of A study focused only on consumer reviews, not marketing efforts. Lafreniere said she does not believe the power of profanity translates to businesses using curse words.

But she did say when it comes to reviews, there is no industry that is exempt from the benefit of foul language.

“Like baby products, there was still this positive and significant effect of swear words.”

Customers should limit their curse words though. The study found using 1 or 2 in a review was effective but more than that could come off as crude.

The research also showed the swears should only be directed at the product, not a specific business or person.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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